Discovering the heart of Osaka's rare grooves, South Korean TV and a Middle Eastern print collective.
In the 1990s, Yoshihiro Okino was a young DJ with a following in Osaka’s underground club scene. Okino, who had formed Kyoto Jazz Massive with his elder brother Shuya, wasn’t playing what everyone else knew. For years he had been making trips to London to hunt for vinyl and had built up a collection of jazz crossover, soul, Brazilian, funk and boogie.
This was before digital music had caught on; before the internet made it a cinch to get your hands on the esoteric. Before every trip overseas, friends would hand Okino lists of music to find for them. “I thought, ‘If that’s the case, I should just open a record shop,’” he says.
He opened Especial Records on the ground level of a low-rise in 1999, selling secondhand records. His neighbours in Minamisenba were wholesalers and small-business owners. There wasn’t much foot traffic and yet every day the shop was packed. “I had really, really rare records,” he says.
Four years later Okino and his brother launched Tokyo Crossover/Jazz Festival. These days digital music has cut into his business but it doesn’t seem to bother him. He sits behind the counter remixing music for his label or booking DJs for big events he organises. “If money were the only thing to think about this shop wouldn’t make sense,” he says. “But being here is good. I can meet with artists. We might stand around by the record shelves or sit outside on the bench and have a drink. It’s a small shop but I’m always here and it keeps my ear to the ground.”
Denon has been a cornerstone of Japan’s legendary hi-fi sector for 100 years but never has it flown without wires – until now. The new Heos multi-speaker, multi-room system could be a Sonos-busting set-up with its serious build quality and smart looks. But it’s the crisp sound quality – and the fact that you can control it with your phone – that impresses.
The South Korean television business is increasingly becoming of interest to the rest of the world. South Korean broadcasters and producers are hoping that a growing number of globally friendly documentaries, eye-popping formats and edgy dramas can help K-TV experience the same boon as K-pop.
Former Channel 4, Sony Pictures and National Geographic executive Amanda Groom spotted this shift and set up The Bridge, a consultancy firm designed to act as a middle-man to bring together international partners with South Korean ideas and funding.
Groom’s current focus is uniting UK producers with their equivalents in South Korea, such as Seoul-based firm Bethel Global Media Contents, which produces series including Top Designer (think America’s Next Top Model-meets-Dragon’s Den). With the help of the Korea Communications Agency, the new enterprise has already seen British firms do around £500,000 (€665,000) of business in the country, with much more to come.
At the end of last year, UK culture secretary Sajid Javid visited Seoul to investigate its potential along with British Council Korea director Martin Fryer, British Film Institute boss Amanda Nevill and BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie. “There is enormous potential for creative and financial benefit for UK broadcasters and production companies in dealing with Korean broadcasters,” says Groom.
Major US networks and Hollywood studios are also starting to pay attention. ABC is developing a remake of supernatural love story My Love From Another Star, while Lost star Yunjin Kim is developing a US version of sci-fi thriller Nine Times Travel. Meanwhile, Hawaii Five-0 actor Daniel Dae Kim is hoping to adapt medical drama Good Doctor.
Iris: Follows a group of intelligence agents trying to prevent the outbreak of the second Korean War. Producers are seeking international interest for a remake.
The RJ Thomas Story: Documentary about Robert Jermain Thomas, a missionary credited with bringing Christianity to South Korea. The film is produced by Awen Media for Welsh public broadcaster S4C.
The Forgotten War: A two-part documentary about Welsh involvement in the Korean War.